Essex domestic violence refuges face up to budget cuts

Domestic violence refuges in Essex are having to make cuts to their services due to a reduction in their funding.

Five organisations which receive money from Essex County Council to provide services said they had seen reductions of up to 24% from the authority.

The council said overall cuts from central government meant it had to reduce the money it gave in order to maintain its services.

One victim of domestic abuse described the cuts as "tragic".

The charities run overnight shelters, help for women with children and outreach services on behalf of the council as part of its Supporting People programme.

One of them, Safer Places, which runs refuges in Harlow, Southend and East Hertfordshire, is losing £186,000 from the council, a reduction of 24%.

'Cannot cope'

Chief executive Janet Dalrymple said it meant some victims might not be able to get a place there.

"With a reduced staffing level we simply cannot cope with as many children as we used to do.

"In Harlow, for example, I would estimate we will probably be unable to accommodate 20 families in the current year that we were able to accommodate in previous years."

As a result of an 18% cut, Braintree Women's Aid is considering cutting its outreach programme.

Both Basildon Women's Aid and Chelmsford Women's Aid have had to make a total of three staff redundant.

Colchester and Tendring Women's Refuge said its 13% reduction meant staff had less time to spend with victims of abuse.

'Life and death'

They all said while the level of service they could provide would change, they would help a woman who contacted them even if the refuges were full.

One woman who used Colchester and Tendring Women's refuge told BBC Essex it was "a matter of life and death to so many".

She said: "I know that without the refuge being there and the facilities they provide it could just mean women are going to find themselves permanently in abusive relationships.

"In a word, it's tragic that it can even be contemplated."

In a statement, Essex County Council said: "[We have] worked with service providers to decide where savings can be found and how services can be delivered more efficiently."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites